Five of the yokozuna sumo foundations of Ohio and Pennsylvania have issued a report The Recession’s Impact On The Safety Net In Ohio And Pennsylvania hoping to capture the attention of the new administration as well as Congress. The five are The Cleveland Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Toledo Community Foundation. There must have been a mutual understanding that Akron Community Foundation, Erie Community Foundation and The Youngstown Foundation were not of their stature. Nothing said aloud you understand.
This material is freshly dated January 10, 2009. The recession has dramatically increased human needs in our region. First-time users are fraying an already fatigued and inadequate safety net for the young and old, under employed and unemployed.
They outline “a jump in first-time user demand on food banks ranging from 9 – 46% across all five urban areas.” They found a “decreased capacity of food banks to respond to the needs given the 5.5% increase in food costs, 50% increase in distribution costs, 8% decrease in donated food and funding cuts.” Other factors are an “increase in individuals receiving food stamps in the range of 4 – 15%, and “3 – 5% increased participation in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.”
Requests for help and assistance to avoid eviction and foreclosure are increasing by 22% and 50%. Requests for utility assistance are up 25% and 75% in some areas.
The waiting list for child care subsidy has doubled in Pennsylvania to 7,000 and growning.
Requests for transportation assistance are up from 38% to 70%. This means that in every area of need they studied the requests for help are overwhelming. Neither the community foundations nor the entire nonprofit sector can give more than a thin of soup of help. This is deprivation on a large scale.
The report estimates that the five urban areas will need $1.79 billion in supplemental funding over the next two years. The report adds, “This figure does not include services to meet historic ‘chronic’ needs.” If the government does not radically change the future, the future will change us. The report “estimates that by 2010, there could be as many as 1.1 million persons unemployed across Pennsylvania and Ohio.” Add to that 1.1 million the families of the unemployed, the under employed and families, and the elderly with limited income you have the population of a third world country under massive stress.
We instantly know that dealing with this ever growing crisis is beyond what an individual can do. It is beyond what a state government can handle. It may prove to be too much even for the Federal government. As the crisis is rushing toward us and the resolution is not in sight, this does not mean that individuals are helpless or that paralysis is acceptable. If we have a loaf and fish we need to share. We need to let random acts of kindness become routine. When others need us most is when we can live the richest part of our lives. Charles Marlin